APCHA head caught up in differing goals

The executive director of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority said he wants a different boss so he is no longer caught between conflicting directives from the agency’s board and the city manager.

“It makes this job untenable,” Mike Kosdrosky, executive director of APCHA, told the board Wednesday. “It’s getting to the point where I could never recommend this job to anybody because of the governance structure.”

APCHA is recognized as a department of the city of Aspen, and as such, Kosdrosky reports to the city manager, a position currently held by Sara Ott.

She, along with County Manager Jon Peacock, made the case to the APCHA board that the current governance structure should remain intact.

City Council and county commissioners approved it earlier this year through a revision of the two governments’ intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that oversees the agency.

Peacock said with other significant changes to the IGA, he anticipates no future conflicts because the agency will be more aligned with both governmental bodies.

Ott has said outside of Wednesday’s meeting that she and Peacock are trying to work collaboratively with APCHA and the two governments for the good of the overall community, and to protect the public’s multi-million dollar investment in more than 3,000 deed-restricted units within the inventory.

The IGA approved by the city and county this past spring also holds APCHA more accountable in that the board and the executive director have to devise a five-year strategic plan that must be ratified by both governments.

The executive director also must prepare an annual work plan and budget that specifies the agency’s goals, which will be under the supervision of Ott.

None of that has been done, partly because the board’s makeup was changed this year so that it includes elected officials from both governments instead of an all-volunteer citizen board limited to just making recommendations.

Peacock and Ott said it’s in the community’s best interest to allow a year to pass to see if the changes have a positive effect on governance of the program.

Kosdrosky said he doesn’t see that as an acceptable solution and urged the board to make a recommendation to elected officials to change the governance structure so he reports to the board.

“Waiting around a year, I’m not sure I’m willing to do that,” he said, adding that he was recently disciplined by Ott for sending out a press release last month announcing the eviction of a tenant who had been embroiled in a protract legal battle with APCHA.

“I was directed by the board to get out in front of it and the city manager contradicts the will of the board,” Kosdrosky said. “I’m caught in the middle here.”

Ott said last month in an interview that the press release — which she, along with Peacock and the elected officials who serve on the APCHA board have said was inappropriate — isn’t a governance issue.

“I’m not sure what is untenable, I haven’t gotten that answer,” she said after the Oct. 2 APCHA board meeting that got heated when Kosdrosky was criticized for the press release. “We need someone who is collaborating with the community. … This program needs to move forward.”

After Wednesday’s meeting, Ott said “it’s not as general as a press release” for the disciplinary action taken against Kosdrosky.

APCHA board member Carson Schmitz noted in an Oct. 16 APCHA meeting that the majority of the board supported Kosdrosky in his writing of the press release, noting that the individual committed fraud and the agency has spent $40,000 in legal fees in the case.

“It was intended to combat the negative public perception, which is a result of a minority of vocal citizens,” Schmitz said at the Oct. 16 meeting. “I find it disappointing to direct the executive director and then have him criticized.”

Kosdrosky found himself in the crosshairs again in December when he was acting on the direction from the board but told by his then-boss Assistant City Manager Barry Crook to do something else.

“Having gone through that experience, there’s an inherent conflict of interest,” Kosdrosky told the board Wednesday. “It makes my job very difficult.”

Peacock said he and Ott are focused on finding a new alignment because of previous leadership in the city manager’s office, which was concerning to the county.

Both Crook and former City Manager Steve Barwick were asked to resign after the APCHA board dust up in December.

Some board members have expressed concern that the changes in the IGA failed to acknowledge or eliminate inevitable conflicts of interest, especially when the will of the APCHA board is at odds with the will of the city or the county.

“We’ve given direction that has created issues in the past,” said board chair John Ward, who suggested that he and others who hold his seat in the future be more involved in the management of the executive director.

Schmitz said Wednesday that based on his experience serving on the board for the past year, he believes that the executive director should report to the board, not the city manager.

“I struggle where we have situations where the city manager disagrees with the best interests of this board,” he said

Ultimately, the board on Wednesday unanimously agreed to recommend to county commissioners and council members that they amend the IGA so the chairperson of the APCHA board is included in personnel matters regarding the agency’s executive director, in collaboration with the city manager and county manager.

Council members and commissioners are scheduled to discuss the matter, among other issues, on Thursday in a joint meeting.